(and there’s nothing they can do about it)
Since its founding in 1953, the Church of Scientology has faced criticism from every quarter imaginable on just about every aspect of its philosophy, its organizations, and its founder. As the decades passed, the criticism evolved in a way that reflected the development of mass media communication. There was more of it, it was reaching more people, and was easily accessible. Then with the advent of the internet, Scientology criticism experienced a quantum leap that caught the Church flat-footed. It was a phenomenon from which they have never fully recovered.
In all of that time, the Church of Scientology’s PR tactics haven’t changed in the least. In the face of mass media, new media, and social media, the Church’s approach to dealing with the public has remained unchanged through it all. The technology, strategy, and tactics of mass media communication changes almost on a daily basis as it expands its reach into every public venue available. Meanwhile, Scientology not only won’t change, they cannot change. It’s an interesting disparity that’s as revealing as it is instructive.
Those familiar with Church policy understand the dilemma. All PR activities have come exclusively from the writings of L. Ron Hubbard. As is the case with all of Hubbard’s works, they are the first, last, and only words that the Church can follow. In the case of Scientology’s application of public relations, they have an entire body of Hubbard’s writing called the PR Series. It consists of over two dozen “policy letters” first compiled and published in the 70’s and revised and expanded in the 80’s. There isn’t a single PR activity that isn’t derived from these writings.
In today’s fast moving, ever changing media driven landscape, Scientology PR is quaint at best. Public Relations thrives best when it moves deftly with the perceptions, behavior, and demands of the public. These things are not static, and smart business people know how to adjust accordingly. Sadly, for the Church of Scientology, their own policies prevent them from doing this.
Contemporary media has painted a compelling picture of the Church of Scientology that’s become part of the public consciousness. The pop culture perception, accurate or not, is the accepted reality which the Church is unable to deal with in any substantial or effective way. Moreover, it’s a reality that they refuse to acknowledge, and therefore are unable to understand. You can blame Hubbard’s antiquated policies for that.